Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is seriously considering pulling out of next Friday’s presidential run-off election after Thabo Mbeki failed to persuade Robert Mugabe to call it off.
Mbeki met Mugabe in Bulawayo and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in Harare on Wednesday to discuss the election contest between them.
Well-informed sources say Mbeki tried to persuade them to call off the poll because the rising tide of pre-election violence already made it impossible for it to be free and fair.
He instead proposed that Zanu-PF and the MDC together form a transitional government of national unity to prepare the ground for peaceful and credible elections later.
Tsvangirai agreed but Mugabe did not, the sources said.
Mbeki also failed to persuade Mugabe to meet Tsvangirai to address the crisis. The MDC leader had been willing to do so.
Mbeki’s determination or routine failure
Sources said Mbeki wasn’t giving up. “Mbeki is convinced the run-off will not help in resolving the crisis and has made that point very clear. He has warned that the run-off might in fact exacerbate the situation.
“He thus prefers a Kenya-style power-sharing pact instead of the run-off, but it’s already too late for that,” said one authoritative official.
An influential Zimbabwean politician close to the discussions said: “It was one of Mbeki’s routine failures. As long as the so-called mediation is based on appeasing Mugabe instead of confronting his evil regime head-on, nothing is ever going to be achieved.”
Elections mean nothing to Mugabe
MDC national spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said Mugabe had made a number of recent statements which confirmed his resolve to disregard the people’s will in next week’s election.
Last week, Mugabe said he would not sacrifice Zimbabwe’s hard-won independence on the altar of a “mere X on a ballot”. He has also repeatedly warned he would start a war if the opposition won.
On Thursday, Mugabe said he will only retire from office when he is satisfied that the land is “truly and safely” in the hands of the black majority.
Addressing Zanu-PF supporters at two rallies in Matabeleland North, Mugabe said he had to ensure the legacy of returning land stolen by the British settlers to its rightful owners – the black people – before entertaining any thoughts of relinquishing power.
He said he could not allow sell-outs to mortgage the country to Britain.
“I don’t want to betray Umdala Wethu, Dr Joshua Nkomo, Cde Simon Muzenda, Nikita Mangena and others. That is why I am disappointed when people vote MDC.
“Once I am sure this legacy (of returning land to the blacks) is truly in your hands, people are empowered, then I can say: Aha, the work is now done.”
“I walk on this land. I farm on this land. I sleep on it. My house is built on it. Our children play on it. Our schools are built on it.
Chamisa said there is no point in having the election.
“Why should we participate in it? Many of our members are now wondering and want us to pull out”.